birds

How An EPA Grant Transformed Our Lives and Environment

Many employers in Wisconsin can’t find applicants with the right skills and credentials to fill job openings. We refer to this as a skills mismatch – there are jobs available but those who are unemployed don’t have the industry certifications, licenses and credentials to qualify. We’ve engineered the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps (Great Lakes CCC) using the EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant program to position our training participants for career and college readiness. We believe individuals from under-represented populations can work in sectors related to environmental remediation while simultaneously ascending to positions of leadership where post-secondary education will be a prerequisite. .

In our Great Lakes CCC program, we start with public-private partnerships that give participants high-level science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) experiences which translate into bona fide occupational credentials. We emphasize disaster planning and preparedness inherent in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration hazardous waste courses and co-enroll our trainees into the AmeriCorps national service program where they also earn college scholarships. Individuals who previously thought post-secondary education was unattainable suddenly find themselves with scholarships they can use for tuition over the next several years.

For example, we put together a cross-sector partnership that utilizes bird species to detect contaminated sediments that impair the water quality of Lake Michigan estuaries. Under the leadership of the U.S. Geological Service, our training participants are in the process of monitoring tree swallow populations for the presence of contaminants that may be bio-accumulating in the species. When contaminants are identified, our training participants transition from the lab to the field to learn alongside remediation contractors who are responsible for the dredging and restoration operations.

Our training participants are individuals who face barriers to employment, and many of them have struggled to get an education or to find work. We’ve found that high-demand, portable, national credentials – the premise of EPA’s environmental job training grant program – are the solution to long-term employment for our trainees. The combination of multiple industry certifications creates new career opportunities. For instance, a commercial driver’s license overlaid with hazardous waste training positions them for occupations in great demand by trucking companies located between Milwaukee and Chicago. We believe everyone is employable – our multi-faceted credentialing approach has resulted in an average 80 percent placement rate and we anticipate sector partnerships and placement outcomes will climb further as we continue to fine tune our training.

About the author: Chris Litzau serves as the President of the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps (Great Lakes CCC), a regional job training and education program for disadvantaged individuals in southeastern Wisconsin. He is a tireless advocate for preparing young adults from under-resourced communities with national, portable credentials and skills necessary to achieve careers in emerging technologies. He has a strong interest in transitioning job training participants into the water sector. As the former Executive Director for 12 years at the Milwaukee Community Service Corps–an urban youth corps program that engages young adults aged 18 to 23 in community service and public infrastructure development projects—he assembled a team that included the U.S. EPA, Wisconsin DNR and CH2M HILL to pioneer the “Milwaukee Model” as an initiative to place brownfield job training participants in marine environments to assist in the clean-up of contaminated sediments from the Great Lakes and its tributaries.  

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Reminder

By Danny Hart

We’ve had a visitor to our building over the last couple of weeks. He’s a beauty. And from the little I know of birds and what I could find online after his previous visit, he appears to be a red-tailed hawk. It’s a bit strange seeing such a huge bird perched in a courtyard in downtown Washington, DC on a snowy spring day. I would have thought he’d be more comfortable out in the marshes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, or soaring the skies above Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

But, I think this visitor wanted pay a visit to remind us of the majesty and beauty that shares this planet we’re trying to protect.

About the author: Danny Hart is EPA’s Associate Director of Web Communications

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Climate Change is for the Birds

By Michael Rohwer

These are heady days for birders. My friend, an avid bird watcher, tells me that more and more species have been appearing near her home over the years.

These new sightings may be a sign of something bigger—bird species spreading into new territory may be an indicator of a changing climate. In fact, all “canary-in-the-coal-mine” references aside, birds make particularly good indicators of environmental change for several reasons:

  • Each species of bird has adapted to certain habitat types, food sources, and temperature ranges. In addition, the timing of certain events in their life cycles—such as migration and reproduction—is driven by cues from the environment. Changing conditions such as warming temperatures can influence the distribution of both migratory and non-migratory birds.
  • Birds are easy to identify and count, and there is a wealth of scientific knowledge about their distribution and abundance. People (like birders) have kept detailed records of bird observations for more than a century.
  • There are many different species of birds living in a variety of habitats, so if a change in habitats or habits occurs across a range of bird types, it suggests that a common force might be contributing.

The National Audobon Society’s Exit EPA Disclaimer observational data, featured in EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the U.S. Report, shows that the average bird species shifted northward to winter by 35 miles from 1966 to 2005. These trends are closely related to winter temperatures. Of the 305 species studied, 58% have shifted their wintering grounds significantly northward since the 1960s, though some others haven’t moved at all or move for other reasons (e.g., habitat alteration, food availability). This graph shows that shift north over time:

South

North

Some bird species adapt to generally warmer temperatures by changing where they live by migrating further north in the summer but not as far south in the winter. With more than 500 local chapters, the National Audobon Society makes it easy to collect vital data, through its annual Christmas Bird CountExit EPA Disclaimer the new Coastal Bird Survey, and other initiatives. I plan to dedicate some weekend mornings to birding. How about you? Maybe we’ll spot each other participating in the Christmas bird count so our observations can help tell the story of how bird wintering grounds are changing.

About the author: Michael Rohwer is a recent ORISE Fellow supporting the communications team in the Climate Change Division within the Office of Air and Radiation. When he’s not pursuing a career in protecting human health and the environment, you can find him enjoying gardening and sports.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Rehabilitating George, and other Injured Birds at the Raptor Trust

Red Tail Hawk with broken wing

Red Tail Hawk with broken wing

By Marcia Anderson

This Red Tail Hawk was found in March on the roadway of the George Washington Bridge by Bergen County Animal Control, so I will call him George.

In the wild, an injured wing is usually a death sentence for a bird, except this time, thanks to the Raptor Trust, located in Millington, N.J. The Raptor Trust is recognized as a national leader in the fields of raptor conservation, avian rehabilitation and the conservation of birds of prey. The “Trust” includes a hospital with state-of-the-art medical center, diagnostic facilities, and quality housing for several hundred injured, abandoned or poisoned birds brought to them from New York City and New Jersey.

Pictured below is the x-ray of George’s broken wing prior to surgery on April 21. At the fully equipped medical infirmary, veterinarian Dr. Andrew Major, pinned bone fragments back into place and treated an existing infection at the site of the injury. It will take months of care at the Raptor Trust for the bone in the wing to solidify before the pins can be removed. George is currently recovering from his surgery in an outdoor aviary. He is

eating and progressing nicely.  After his wing pins are removed and before he is allowed to be released, his joints must loosen by practicing short flights in an aviary cage. In the wild, hawks can attain speeds of over 150 mph when diving for their prey, so George must be completely rehabilitated before being released.

Broken wing X-ray

Broken wing X-ray

The Raptor Trust is open 365 days a year to receive injured and orphaned wild birds at their medical infirmary. The primary goal of the center is to restore good health or useful purpose to all birds. In 2011, the center had 3556 patients. They successfully rehabilitated 1644 of the birds including 203 raptors and 1441 non-raptors. Sadly, not all birds recover or can be fully rehabilitated. Unreleasable raptors may become part of the Raptor Trust’s captive breeding, foster parenting, or educational programs. Foster parent birds of the same species help to raise orphaned young and teach them correct behaviors, thereby avoiding human imprinting. Hundreds of young injured or abandoned raptors have been successfully released back into the wild as a result of the ‘Foster Bird Parent Program’.

All hawks are protected by state and federal laws. It is illegal to capture or kill a hawk, or to possess a hawk, alive or dead, without proper permits from both the State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

What you can do to help prevent injuries to wild birds around your home….

  1. Avoid removing trees and shrubs in prime nesting season: spring and summer. Wait until fall when bird nests are no longer in use.
  2. Birds accidently fly into glass because they mistake reflections for reality, so disarm window and glass doors by disrupting their see-through or mirror-like qualities. You can place streamers, a windsock or lines of colored string across the outside of the window. A hawk silhouette taped to the glass, or decals, act as a danger sign to most birds. Interior lights will also eliminate or reduce reflections.

Visitors to the Raptor Trust are always welcome and are afforded a unique opportunity to view at close range the many hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and owls that are permanent residents in the aviaries at the facility. For more information go to:  http://theraptortrust.org/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Around the Water Cooler: American Wetlands Month—and Your Dinner

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

ShrimpboatBayou country, located along the Gulf of Mexico, specifically Louisiana, has historically shaped the culture and the economy of the region. The Bayou—otherwise known as wetlands, swamps, or bogs—is an economic resource supporting commercial and sport fishing, hunting, recreation and agriculture.

Remember the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company? The shrimping business the fictional Forrest Gump started (and since inspired a real restaurant chain). Without clean and healthy wetlands, there’s no shrimping business, not in the movies and not in real life.

This month is American Wetlands Month and EPA is acknowledging the extensive benefits—or “ecosystem services”—that wetlands provide. From trapping floodwaters and recharging groundwater supplies to removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands improve water quality in nearby rivers, streams and lakes and even serve as a natural filter for our drinking water. They are the “kidneys” of our hydrologic cycle.

In Bayou Country, wetlands provide nearly all of the commercial catch and half the recreational harvest of fish and shellfish. They are extremely valuable to the region’s economy. Wetlands in the region provide the habitat for birds, alligators and crocodiles, muskrat, beaver, mink and a whole bunch of other important critters.

EPA researchers all over the country are looking at different ways to keep our wetlands clean and healthy. From nutrient pollution research and water quality research to buffers around rivers and stream habitat (“riparian zones”) and other green infrastructure efforts, scientists are ensuring that our wetlands can continue to do their work – providing a habitat, filtering out pollution, and supporting our economy.

This month, wherever you sit down to enjoy all the shrimp and seafood you can eat, remember that without healthy and clean wetlands, none of that would be possible.

For more information on how EPA scientists monitor and assess our wetlands, read here.

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry loves clean water, healthy beaches and great seafood. A regular contributor to EPA’s It All Starts with Science blog, she helps communicate the great science in the Agency’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Program.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Things My Mother Taught Me

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

As I look back at my relationship with my Mom over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve become an environmentalist largely due to the values that she instilled in me as a child. The love of nature, the interest in protecting wildlife, especially birds, the appreciation for flowering plants are some of the things that my mother taught me, not only in words, but through her actions. Lina's-Robin#

As far as I can remember, we always had flowering plants in the garden and indoor house plants as well. For many years, my mother had birdfeeders in our back yard. Given the fact that we lived in Puerto Rico where we enjoy summer-like weather all year round, our home definitely felt like a tropical oasis.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, my parents, both my grandmothers, and even great grandmother, were fortunate to have a green thumb. It seemed that anything they planted bloomed easily and flourished. I’ve tried to replicate their gardening skills at home as best as possible. I like to joke that our family’s green thumb seems to have skipped a generation in my case.

Nonetheless, I still try to create a welcoming natural environment around my home and a green environment indoors as well.

Lina's-Maple#So as we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day,  I would like to thank my Mother for what she has taught me. I hope that I will transmit those teachings to my children so they will also appreciate nature and protect the environment. This Mother’s Day, as we have done during similar celebrations, we’ll probably go to Brookside Gardens. I promise I’ll take pictures.

Do you have any special plans for Mother’s Day? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Harbinger of Spring

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By Lina Younes

Spring is the season associated with the awakening of nature and rebirth.  You see it in the trees and bushes that begin to sprout new shoots and buds. You see it in the leaves of the bulbs that are starting to push up through the ground. You see it the increasing activity of wildlife. And you hear it in the sounds of nature that rise from their wintry slumber.

The other day as I returned home from work, I noticed a loud chirping.  I looked around and found one robin redbreast perched at the very top of a tree. There were no other birds in sight.  In my mind, it seemed like he was calling “look at me” and proclaiming “spring is right around the corner.”

This time I was equipped with my camera in my handbag and was able to capture the scene.  Since that evening, I’ve seen plenty of robins actively hoping around my back yard. Now I’m looking forward to seeing other colorful birds visiting the area.

During springtime, it’s a great time to consider greenscaping techniques to have a greener and healthier yard to protect the environment and save money. By creating a healthier garden, you’ll be able to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of nature while creating a happier setting for your family, pets, wildlife and the environment as a whole.

Have you seen any early signs of spring in your neighborhood? As always, we love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The First Signs of Spring

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Dave Deegan

There are always a lot of weather clichés: If March comes in like a lion, it will  go out like a lamb, etc.

I wonder if there is a rule to February. If it kicks off with a huge blizzard, and ends with soggy ground, well then I guess we’re just heading into New England’s Mud Season.  It may not be the prettiest time of year, but it is at least a sign that winter is losing its grip and spring will come.

Everyone remembers how mild last year was: we had crocuses blooming on February 26th.

Just a few weeks ago we had one of the bigger blizzards anyone around here can remember. But in the past few days, the temperature stayed (just slightly) above freezing, so we had buckets of rain, instead of feet of snow. Of course, with the ground still frozen, all that rain means a lot of standing water on the ground until it eventually filters into the soil. A soggy mess, or a sign of spring: your call.

It seems as if everybody up in New England pays special attention to the length of days during this time of year.  Even by late January, you start to notice that “Hey, a month ago it was dark at 4:30, and now it’s light half an hour longer.”  Meaning that by now, in early March, I see daylight through much of my commuter train ride home, until close to 6PM.

Right now, we’re only a few weeks away from changing the clocks for daylight savings time.  If only the temperature would catch up as quickly as the light!

The last few mornings I’ve also been cheered to hear the familiar “wheat wheat wheat” call of our resident cardinals, a familiar sound that I associate with the transition to spring. Of course the cardinals are a welcome presence at our backyard feeders all through the winter, but it’s only now that their activity changes and they start singing more.

All of this means that it is high time to dust off our seed catalogs and gardening books, and start planning what our early season vegetable garden will need, and what care will be needed for our other plants that are just now peeking out from under winter’s snowbanks.

About the author:  Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not at work, he loves being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Our Friendly Feathered Friends

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By Lina Younes

Ever since the beginning of the year, I have been noticing more the comings and goings of wild birds around my home.  For the past weeks, I’ve been hearing an increasing number of bird calls as well. While I didn’t quite recognize the distinct chirps or calls of the different birds, I can tell that they are coming from a wide variety of bird species.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, there is a pair of cardinals that is frequently visiting my backyard. I’ve seen blue jays and other birds in the wooded area behind my house, but they don’t seem to come to my garden while I have been around. I discussed the situation with my children and they suggested that I put bird feeders. “You can even put peanut butter on an acorn. That’s what we did at school,” proclaimed the youngest.

Frankly, I had been resisting the idea of bird-feeders for the longest time. I thought that by creating a bird-friendly environment in my backyard birds would visit regularly. I’ve prided myself with planting flowering plants, shrubs and trees that will provide birds and other pollinators with habitat, food and rest areas. There’s even a little creek nearby to provide water. I was opting for a natural approach. Personally, I didn’t want to get bird feeders because I didn’t want to feed the area squirrels nor did I want to attract unwanted rodents.

To feed or not to feed, that was the question! So, in the spirit of National Bird-Feeding Month, I finally decided to get a couple of bird feeders and birdseed for wild birds. I will be placing them strategically in my garden this weekend. I stress the word “strategically” because I don’t want to put them in location that will give easy access to those pesky squirrels. Nonetheless, I want to have them in a location where my family and I may feast our eyes with the site of the colorful avian visitors that will be flying by.

I hope to take some nice pictures of some blue jays, orioles and in the summer, some golden finches. I am looking forward to sharing the experience in future blogs. Stay tuned.

Do you have any bird-watching suggestions? Would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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It’s Not Always About You – or – Environmental Gratitude in my Work and Life

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Eric P. Nelson

Having recently emerged from the holiday season that now runs from the day my Jack-O-Lantern takes up its position on the compost pile to the day my Christmas tree gets tossed onto the grim-faced Jack-O-Lantern, I feel rather drained from all the sentiments of gratitude and goodwill that I have both expressed and received during this extended season. They’re genuine, mostly, and seem appropriate at the time, but I’ve now shifted into New England-style winter survival mode, and quite prefer it after a long season of excess.

Recently, I read an article about “environmental gratitude.” The term was new to me, but after I read the article I realized I had discovered what motivates and guides me at work, and in many aspects of my life. Environmental gratitude was defined as, “a finely tuned propensity to notice and feel grateful for one’s surroundings on a regular basis, which generates pervasive attitudes of concern for planetary welfare and commitment to contribute ecological benefits to the extent of one’s ability.” It’s a bit dense to digest, but the article goes on to describe the phrase in simpler terms.

Unlike the gratitude one may feel during the holidays, environmental gratitude is not beholden to particular benefactors, does not require mutual intentionality (Thank you for that 2,000-calorie holiday meal!). Instead, simply recognizing and appreciating the very existence of the natural world and your connection to it can instill a sense of gratitude that can, in turn, influence your general attitude about protecting nature and motivate you to take action.

This has happened to me over the course of my life, and it’s how I approach my work at EPA, at least most days. No thanks sought, or needed, from those living things in the watery world that hopefully benefit from my actions. In truth, though, I do get thanked through my interactions with the natural world. And while I’ve seen nature in some of its most impressive forms, I’m just as enchanted by brief encounters close to home: a passing glimpse of a hawk flying through Boston Common; a hummingbird pausing on a branch above my shed; crows calling, winter quiet in snowy woods; a pungent whiff of exposed mudflat on a lonely beach; the jewel-like stars overhead at my bus stop on a clear, dark winter morning; the iridescent beetle that landed oh so briefly on the back of my wife’s neck. Such encounters are everywhere for all those who care to take notice. And to me, they matter.

The article, “Environmental Gratitude and Ecological Action,” by Richard Matthews, was featured on the website.

About the author: Eric Nelson works in the Ocean and Coastal Protection Unit of EPA New England in Boston, but prefers being underwater with the fishes. He lives in a cape on Cape Cod with his wife and two daughters, and likes pesto on anything.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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